The Lowy Institute

Lowy Institute

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The Lowy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan international policy think tank located in Sydney, Australia. The Institute provides high-quality research and distinctive perspectives on foreign policy trends shaping Australia and the world. On Soundcloud we host podcasts from our events with high-level guest speakers as well as our own experts. Essential listening for anyone seeking to better understand foreign policy challenges!


In conversation: Fred Smith reflects on the Afghanistan frontline

September 22nd, 2016

Episode 391 of 448 episodes

With the problems of fragile and conflict-affected states increasingly impossible to ignore, the international community has learned from bitter experience that our interventions need to be well calibrated to the political and tribal dynamics on the ground to have any chance of succeeding. On 22 September Lowy Institute Deputy Director Anthony Bubalo hosted Fred Smith for a captivating conversation focusing on reflections from Fred’s two years working as a diplomat and political officer on the frontline of Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, recently distilled into his fascinating memoir, The Dust of Uruzgan. In his 20-year career at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Fred Smith has developed a specialisation in fragile and conflict-affected states, and carved out an unusual niche. His work as a peace monitor, radio broadcaster and musician following the Bougainville crisis is the subject of the documentary, Bougainville Sky. Fred served for two years as a diplomat in southern Afghanistan, working alongside Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province. Working on the Multinational Base in Tarin Kowt, as well as from a forward Operating Base in the Chora Valley, Fred’s second career as a musician came to the fore. His guitar served as a bridge, not only to the troops, but also to the people and tribal leaders of that war-torn region. His acclaimed album Dust of Uruzgan earned him comparisons to the great Australian songwriters Eric Bogle, John Schumann and Don Walker. The title track was recorded by Lee Kernaghan on his bestselling Spirit of the ANZACs album. Fred has also written a book – The Dust of Uruzgan – the first comprehensive on-the-ground account of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan. He is currently a Senior Policy Officer in the Civil Military and Stabilisation Policy Section of DFAT’s Humanitarian Division.

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